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Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2015 Dec;45(6):651-63. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12156. Epub 2015 Feb 18.

Positive-Themed Suicide Prevention Messages Delivered by Adolescent Peer Leaders: Proximal Impact on Classmates' Coping Attitudes and Perceptions of Adult Support.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York, USA.


Developing science-based communication guidance and positive-themed messages for suicide prevention are important priorities. Drawing on social learning and elaboration likelihood models, we designed and tested two positive-focused presentations by high school peer leaders delivered in the context of a suicide prevention program (Sources of Strength). Thirty-six classrooms in four schools (N = 706 students) were randomized to (1) peer leader modeling of healthy coping, (2) peer leader modeling plus audience involvement to identify trusted adults, or (3) control condition. Students' attitudes and norms were assessed by immediate post-only assessments. Exposure to either presentation enhanced positive coping attitudes and perceptions of adult support. Students who reported suicide ideation in the past 12 months benefited more than nonsuicidal students. Beyond modeling alone, audience involvement modestly enhanced expectations of adult support, congruent with the elaboration likelihood model. Positive peer modeling is a promising alternative to communications focused on negative consequences and directives and may enhance social-interpersonal factors linked to reduced suicidal behaviors.

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